Wondering how the highly anticipated live action Pokemon film has gone? Well, in this spoiler-light review, I detail my thoughts and feelings on this interpretation of the Pokemon world… So read on to learn if this was a Critical Hit, of if this wasn’t very effective.
Detective Pikachu opens with a pan over to a lab in hot disarray – Mewtwo (voiced by Rina Hoshino and Kotaro Watanabe) is struggling inside a chamber within. Exclaiming that ‘They’re outside!’, it bursts out of the lab, and chases down a car speeding away from the facility – Before throwing it off a bridge with its psychic powers.
In these first few moments, Rob Letterman’s Detective Pikachu gives us a glimpse of the mystery and action that will weave throughout the film. Although written for – and primarily aimed at – a younger audience, the movie is surprisingly intense in its moments of action, and maintains a good pace overall, with a smattering of jokes and callbacks for older viewers. Warner Bros. did a good job in that regard.
We begin our Pokemon journey with Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) on the outskirts of his small town, being tricked by his friend into trying to catch a wild Cubone so he isn’t alone. But, reluctant to form new bonds in the wake of his mother’s death and his father’s neglect, we learn that Tim has no real interest in Pokemon. He is seemingly content to focus on his career as an Insurance Salesman instead.
A distressing call about his father’s apparent death puts a kink in those plans, however – Tim travels to Ryme City, where his father lived, to talk to the police about the situation, and claim his father’s belongings.
Ryme City – an initiative by philanthropist Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) to create a unique place where Pokemon and Humans can live together as equal citizens, free from battles and PokeBalls – is a well realised fantasy metropolis that, at times, reminds me of the vibrance of Zootopia. The city is well lit, clean, but also realistic and grounded – Ashpalt roads lay between American-style architecture, with signs in English and Japanese advertising a variety of businesses big and small. Pokemon and people walk the streets, and everyday mishaps – like a Snorlax falling asleep in the middle of an intersection – are swiftly dealt with by those around them (In this case, a Machamp takes on the duty to guide traffic around the enormous narcolept). Ryme City feels alive, and bristling with life both human and otherwise, and it’s just a wonder to behold.
Soon after talking to the police and bumping into rookie reporter, Lucy (Kathryn Newton) and her Psyduck, Tim enters his father’s apartment and comes across our deuteragonist, Detective Pikachu himself… And from there the story truly begins.
Pikachu is, to put it simply, an absolute treasure of a character, and almost worth the price of admission alone. Usually sassy, funny, and bounding with personality, Ryan Reynolds’ voice work gives already good writing for the character an even bigger boost with his charming delivery. He also provides the CGI creation with a surprising amount of realism – In the moments when Pikachu is worried, scared, or sad, Reynolds more than rises to the occasion, delivering truly heartfelt performances. Reynold’s delivery, along with the incredibly well realised effects, quickly makes you forget the electric rodent isn’t some pint-sized actor all of his own.
The same is true for most of the other Pokemon too – Most are amazingly rendered, in a careful mix of faithful adaptation and realism. Whilst, at times, proportions can make Pokemon look a little off (Psyduck’s head wobbles almost balloon like at times), the Pokemon at least act as they should, and major supporting appearances have been carefully looked after even moreso. Don’t worry – These are indeed the Pokemon you came to see. Unless you’re a fan of Eevees, Gengars, or Snubulls. Then your mileage may vary.
Likewise for the humans, too – Tim is great, and Justice Smith does a good job with the role, and the rest of the supporting cast is decent as well. But man, did Lucy’s in-your-face introduction worry me at first. She gets a lot better, though – I’m really not sure why they introduced her the way they did, in all honesty.
The mystery of the movie is nice, but as mentioned before, this movie is primarily written for kids – Older fans will spot the ‘plot twist’ coming a mile away. This doesn’t detract from the inevitable epic showdown, nor the journey to it. Go into this expecting the level of writing you’d get from a Pokemon game, with some punching up with neat character dialogue. In other words: Pleasant, with really good moments here and there. Perhaps someday we’ll get even more than that.
Overall, this movie is pretty good – Far better than any other video game adaptation has ever been (Sans the cheesy glory of Doom), and Detective Pikachu serves as a wonderful realisation of the Pokemon world. If you’re a Pokemon fan looking for a good movie to watch, this will leave you with a smile and your face, and a warm feeling in your heart. So long as you care more about the ‘Pikachu’ than the ‘Detective’ part of the film’s title, at least.